Liver Cleanse, Pt. 2: Dietary and Herbal remedies

Last month I talked about the effects of stress on PMS symptoms, caused by liver
stagnation and consequently, excess estrogen in the body. This month, I’d like to
continue with dietary and herbal remedies to assist the liver in detoxifying and to reduce
the effect of PMS.

Below is a gentle, easy cleanse to allow the liver to clear out excess estrogen in the bloodstream. Depending on how severe your symptoms, you may notice effects in 2 weeks or 2 months. If no reduction of symptoms is evident after strictly following the program for three months, I would recommend seeking additional guidance with your naturopath or health provider.
This cleanse works not so much by cleaning out the liver, but by eliminating foods and stimulants which clog up liver function and replacing them with nourishing, whole foods to support liver and other organ function. The protocol below is an improved way of eating for many individuals. Obviously, one diet is not perfect for everyone, but moving towards the way of eating I will describe can increase health for most individuals.

These foods are to be avoided on the liver cleanse plan:

  • alcohol – its connection to liver damage is well known.
  • caffeine – especially in coffee and chocolate. Methylxanthines disrupt the estrogen to progesterone ratio and can cause or exacerbate PMS symptoms. I can personally testify to the coffee/PMS connection.
  • Glutinous grains – wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. Gluten sensitivity is a common, often undiagnosed condition that can manifest in many different ways and will be discussed in a future newsletter.
  • All Dairy products- most dairy is contaminated with hormones and pesticide residues, and dairy is a common allergen.
  • Convenience foods – packaged pastas, soups, “meals” in a box, frozen meals, etc.
  • Artificial food additives – partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, etc.
  • All oils aside form high quality extra-virgin olive oil, or cold-pressed unsaturated oils: sesame, walnut, flax, pumpkin seed, etc. The heat used to process most oils oxidizes and destroys their beneficial properties. Clear, odorless oils in clear, plastic bottles are of extremely low quality and should not be used for anything other than furniture polish.
  • Beef, pork, and conventionally raised poultry. Your animal protein sources need to be organic. The hormones and antibiotics given to livestock have a direct impact on our own hormone levels and are a burden to the liver. Beef and pork are more difficult to break down and are best avoided during the cleanse.

At this point, you may be asking me, “What can I eat? Do you expect me to graze on my lawn?”
Fortunately, there is a great abundance of options available to you on this cleanse. Please seek out and emphasize the following foods:

  • Gluten-free grains: quinoa, brown rice, teff, amaranth, and corn.
  • Vegetables! Vegetables are great cleansers and facilitate detoxification. Unless you are highly active, vegetables should make up 50% of two of your daily cleansing meals. The following vegetables are particularly beneficial to the cleansing process:
        • Cruciferous veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage
        • Beets are incredibly cleansing, and are fabulous juiced with carrots and ginger.
        • Greens are especially cleansing: if it’s leafy and dark green, pile it on!
        • Garlic and onions contain high amounts of sulfuric compounds which are needed for the liver detoxification.
  • Fruits – a potent source of antioxidants, fruits can quell sweet cravings and provide much needed antioxidants and nutrients. Below are the most beneficial:
        • Lemon – lemon is a classic body cleanser. Use fresh lemons, never already juiced, which contains preservatives.
        • Melons – very rich in antioxidants. Watermelon also contains glutathione, which plays an important role in detox and repair in the body.
        • Papaya – look for organic, and avoid Hawaiian papaya, as it is a genetically modified variety.
        • All richly-colored fresh fruits contain powerful compounds which cleanse and repair the body. Look for vibrant color and listen to which ones your body is calling out for right now.
  • Eggs, organic poultry, wild fish, beans, lentils are great, easily assimilated protein sources. Eggs in particular contain compounds which assist in liver detoxification. Beans and lentils are fiber-rich foods which assist in keeping the digestive tract clear and moving smoothly.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – found in flax, walnuts, and cold water fish. Flax seeds are especially beneficial because the lignans in the seed assist in hormone regulation. Always grind your flax seeds so that your body can utilize the nutrients trapped within the seed.
  • Drink a lot of water to facilitate the removal of waste products. This can also reduce the likelihood of headaches in the detox process.
  • Green tea is a great antioxidant and is a good transition beverage for those of you who drink coffee or black tea. It does contain some caffeine, but far less than you will find in an espresso.
  • Eat smaller, lighter meals throughout the day, going no longer than three hours without food. Avoid a large dinner. The liver really kicks in to do it’s job by increasing the amounts of detoxification enzymes between the hours of 10pm and 2am; having a large meal to digest detracts the body from utilizing energy for liver repair by placing the focus on digesting your meal. Your last intake of food should be a light meal by 8pm.
  • Reduce external stressors as much as possible. Avoid the nightly news until they have something pleasant to say, turn off your cell phone when you are not expecting a call, and spend some extra time engaged in relaxing, restorative pastimes. Leisurely reading, long baths, slow walks, and saunas are all great ways to slow down, reduce stress hormones, and facilitate healing.

Herbal Remedies:

The following remedies are especially helpful for detoxification:

  • Milk thistle – especially important; it has been documented to help the liver regenerate cells.
  • Dandelion
  • Licorice
  • Red Clover

Several liver-specific herbal remedies are readily available and may be helpful. Make sure it has milk thistle and dandelion in the ingredients. Speak with a qualified individual at a reputable herbal remedy store (like the Bastyr Dispensary or The Herbalist) to assist you.

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